At the UNDP Accelerator Lab in Kenya's outreach and advocacy events, exercises involving SDG awareness as well as clear branding of the different SDGs are a core part of spreading sustainable development messaging (Photo: Nicholas Wilson/UNDP Kenya)

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the integrated and indivisible blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Also known as the Global Goals, the 17 SDGs (constituted of a total 169 targets) collectively make-up the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which recognizes that action to end deprivations such as poverty and hunger must go hand-in-hand with cross-cutting strategies to make society fairer and more sustainable, such as achieving gender equality and taking action to protect the climate and environment.

This year ushered in the SDGs Decade of Action – the final 10 years in which the Goals must be delivered by the 2030. However, the stark truth is that as of now, we’re not on course to meet this deadline.

At the UNDP Accelerator Lab in Kenya, we’ve found that awareness is a clear impediment to progress: in a recent training of journalists as solutions mappers in Wajir County, it emerged that none of the participants were aware of the SDGs. The below average awareness levels in this forum corroborated a 2018 study which revealed that the average awareness for the SDGs amongst university students in Kenya stands at 45% as compared to a reported 54% globally

Despite this knowledge gap, an overwhelming majority of the respondents felt that SDGs could be used to solve the social, economic and environmental problems in Kenya and the world more generally; the Goals thus provide an entry point and a useful framework for Kenyan youth to explore and take action to address societal issues. However, this can only be true if they first understand the Goals, and are afforded the space to take action towards making the country more equal, fair and sustainable.

Young women undertaking an SDGs awareness exercise at a UNDP Accelerator Lab in Kenya event for International Volunteer Day 2019 in Nairobi (Photo: Nicholas Wilson/UNDP Kenya)

The UNDP Accelerator Lab in Kenya is part of a worldwide network seeking to identify and incubate local solutions that have the potential to accelerate development; in Kenya, key stakeholders have identified youth unemployment as a frontier challenge for the Lab to tackle. One strategy to achieve this is to train a network of solutions mappers to help identify grassroots solutions: we have found that by targeting journalists, there is real opportunity to amplify innovative development ideas and interventions, bringing them into greater focus.

Journalists have mandate to report on the most pressing issues of our time; moreover, a critical eye for what’s important and ability to summarise complex subjects are key tools of the trade, meaning the media has the potential to be a key avenue for promoting sustainable development practices. Building knowledge and awareness of the SDGs among those with the loudest voices in our society can accelerate the understanding in Kenya as a whole of what it will take to achieve the Goals.

All 193 UN member states signed up to the Goals in 2015. Though the onus is primarily on national governments to ensure their countries individually and collectively achieve towards the targets set out in the goals, we can all play an important part in achieving them: both as individual citizens and in partnership with others, by becoming more aware of the issues and acting for change.

Going forward, the Accelerator Lab seeks to build a network of solutions mappers, engaging and participatory ways to create awareness of the Goals will form part and parcel of our training and outreach actions. Informed by the SDGs, our efforts to tackle youth unemployment will centre those young people whom it directly affects: through the prism of the 2030 Agenda, we aim to not only create awareness of the Goals but to generate a sense of ownership in order to achieve them.

Authored by Victor Apollo, Head of Solutions Mapping – UNDP Accelerator Lab Kenya

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